Becoming a Finance Manager

In September 2020, after a varied finance career, specialising in manufacturing businesses, Ildikó Klippel joined Mecmesin as Group Finance Manager. Mecemesin is a global business, based near Horsham, which specialises in high quality force testing solutions and products.

Ildiko recounts her career journey and outlines what is needed to succeed as a finance manager in the manufacturing sector…

Why did you decide on a career in finance?

I hadn’t intended to work in finance, my finance career came pretty much unexpectedly. My mum and sister were both working in finance and, being stubborn, I was determined to do something different – so I studied tourism.

My finance career started when I moved to the UK and I started working as a German speaking credit controller. After that I drifted towards accounting. I took an AAT course and then started on the ACCA courses. It was hard as I was working full-time; my studies had to be squeezed in to my weekends and evenings. It was a difficult and very demanding journey – but now I can say that it was worth it.

My ACCA qualification helped hugely moving forward with my career. Before I finished my ACCA training I worked as an accounts assistant. After I qualified my career accelerated starting with a management accountant role at Ricardo Rail (Shoreham). I then moved on to become a financial accountant at Lafarge Building Materials (Dorking), and now I’m a Group Finance Manager at Mecmesin Limited (Slinfold).

As well as studying hard, what skills have helped with your journey?

I always felt that I’ve got people skills and I’m good at explaining things – and I also like to be in control! Over the years of working in various finance departments, I collected ideas from my managers, noting the things that really work and are worth keeping, as well as thinking about what I would do differently.

When I applied for my current role I think it was useful that I had experience in many areas of accounting (credit control, accounts payable, revenue recognition, VAT and corporate tax, management accounting, reporting, etc). I could use examples from my career to prove that I can handle difficult situations and that I am a great team player, not afraid of challenges and trying new things.

Now you are settled in your new role, how have you found the increased responsibility?

I must confess it was a bit overwhelming at first, but I am always driven to make things work and to prove that I can succeed. In my previous roles, I would compare it to rock climbing – the adrenalin pushes me higher and higher and I only realise how much far I have come when I’m on the top!

As a Finance Manager one of the first tasks I set to myself was making sure that I’ve got a supportive team around me – by actually assuring them that I’m behind them and there to help them if they’ve got issues.

I think they have appreciated this support. Just sitting with them and listening to their problems has allowed me to come up with small changes and new processes to simplify our workload.

I had to adopt to the new work environment and company very quickly; after five weeks working for Mecmesin, we had the auditors in and I had to be in a position to answer most of their questions!

I also had to master the accounting system, the reporting structure and tools, and the previously unknown finance areas for me (like stock count).

The company accountant left the company just 2.5 months after I started which meant that I had to be in a position of managing all deadlines and reporting alone. When I say alone – that’s not entirely true. My manager (the Finance Director) has been a great support for me. He is based in a different location within the group but he’s been always available for me over the phone and on video calls.

Do you think you are starting to make a difference?

It’s very satisfying to see the result of small changes I initiated and the difference that the impact of the new processes have. Also, the acknowledgment from my team and from my boss makes me feel good and I know that all the effort was worth it.

My experience in the various accounting areas has come in handy as I can relate to my team’s daily tasks and understand it better. If you lack the management experience but have years and years of working experience, I would encourage everybody to push for the next step.

“Even without management experience, I would encourage everybody to push for the next step”
What lessons have you learned along the way?

The moments when I wasn’t heard or the times I became disheartened by my mistakes were the lessons I learnt from. You learn through experience.

When I was studying, there were so many times when it would have been easier just to give up, especially when I failed an exam and had to double-up on my studying. I didn’t give up and I’m so grateful that I carried on. I’d advise anyone starting out to carry on and don’t give up – it will be worth it in the end.

Callum McKenna is an Associate Director in the Accountancy Division at Harvey John.

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